Our Very Untraditional Christmas

untraditional christmas

My husband and I aren’t religious. We don’t have kids and we don’t have family nearby. We also stopped going “home” for the holidays (our respective birthplaces that aren’t really home anymore) years ago.

Given all that, Christmases aren’t typical in our home.

I’m not complaining about our nontraditional holiday season. On the upside, we don’t have huge lists of Christmas presents to buy, there’s no exhaustion from the hustle and bustle, no excessive holiday parties or time spent with family members we’d rather not hang out with. It’s a very peaceful, drama-free time of year for us, actually.

That said, there’s always an underlying sense of FOMO (fear of missing out) that comes with having an experience that’s different from what we see on TV and even in the blogosphere. I always have those moments of feeling as though I’m on the outside looking in when I see pictures of beautifully decorated homes or adults drinking eggnog and laughing away in their tacky Christmas sweaters.

Shouldn’t I be doing that, too?

Honestly, I’ve always had a sense of dread around Christmas for this very reason. When I was a kid, my father would always drink too much and go into a rage and the whole day would be ruined. It was anything BUT your normal family holiday scene. As a young adult, I felt bad if I was single at the holidays or didn’t have plans for New Years. In my 30’s, it was imperfect for so many reasons that would take a year to list, and even now, with my wonderful husband and two awesome fur babies, I feel a sense of lack around the holidays.

In the past few years, I’ve experimented with different ways of dealing with my holiday malaise. Last year, my husband and I went to Costa Rica. We literally spent the whole day on a plane on the 25th and I loved that we skipped the day entirely. However, traveling over the holidays has its own issues and after almost missing our connecting flight home and being stranded in customs with 7000 cranky travelers, we swore up we’d never travel over Christmas again.

There was also that year we skipped Christmas entirely. We decided to adopt the Jewish traditions for the holidays and just get takeout and watch movies all day long. There was no tree, no holiday cards, no gifts, no events. Just business, as usual, all December long. Ironically, the only things I really missed about the holidays that year was our annual Christmas card tradition. We always take a picture with the dogs and send cards out to everyone we know whether they celebrate Christmas or not (we keep the cards agnostic). I love this tradition because as I sit and write out the cards, I have a moment thinking about each person who receives it. It’s heartwarming to think about all the friends and family we have in our lives.

This year, we’re staying home for Christmas. I did put up a tree, mostly because I think it makes the living room look cozy and inviting. We’ll buy each other a few things that we’d probably want to get anyway, and we’re meeting up for dinner with a few friends that will be in town as well. That’s it!

What about you? Are Christmas traditions a big deal for you and your family?

25x Rule: The simple math for deciding whether or not you can quit working for good.

quit working 25x rule

If you’re sick of your day job and dream of an early retirement, then what I outline below will be helpful for you to figure out if it’s feasibly possible yet. What might surprise you is that you could be closer to telling your boss to shove it than you think, depending on what you’re expectations are.

25x rule for retirement

The Road to Financial Independence (or, “FI” as the money nerds like to say)

The traditional route to FI (yes, I’m a nerd) based on the pioneers of the movement is to keep your expenses so low that not only can you save for retirement faster, you also commit to keeping expenses low for the rest of your life, so you can live on a smaller nest egg.

Here’s some easy math (the only math I’m capable of) to figure that out for yourself:

Financial indépendance (FI) is defined as having enough money saved so that your investments can cover your daily expenses to the point where you no longer have to work for an income.  The equation to calculate what that magic number is for you, is to multiply 25 times your annual expenses. So, if you’re someone who only spends 25K per year, then once you’ve reached $625,000 (25 x $25K) in investments, you can live off the proceeds of that figure and thereby kiss your cubicle life goodbye and sleep in till noon every day for the rest of your life.

Sounds good, right?

Well, that depends whether you’re cool living on 25K per year (adjusted for inflation) for the rest of your days which is a pretty meager income, even in the cheapest areas of the US. It would be impossible to live here in the SF Bay Area on that income, but even in Birmingham, Alabama or Youngstown, Ohio where you can still buy a single family home for $40,000, it would still be a stretch.

No vacations, no dining out, no shopping trips to the outlet malls and not a lot of wiggle room for the things that generally come up in life, like medical expenses or car repairs.

Basically, at this level, you’re committing to being poor, but well rested for the rest of your days.

The Good News

This equation doesn’t factor in any other possible income streams you may have, like pensions, social security or inheritances. It also doesn’t account for income you might make from any random jobs you could pick up in your post-retirement life. It’s just a standard baseline of what you could count on to cover your expenses, based on your current savings.

The Bad News

If you’re in your 40’s and your current nest egg wouldn’t afford you a roomy cardboard box at the rate of 25x, then you’ve got some work to do, but all is not lost. You can start right now by reducing your expenses and increasing your income to build that retirement account up. You can also think about a post-cube career that will afford you the ability to feel a little “retired-ish” without losing your income entirely.

The Important Takeaway

Clearly, the best time to start saving for retirement is when you’re still in the womb. The next best time is today, so don’t be discouraged if you’re not even close yet. With a little creativity, focus and determination, you’d be surprised how fast you can accumulate wealth.